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Construction site contractors fined for exposure to deadly dust

Recently, at a major construction site, federal safety inspectors from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration discovered an accumulation of unsafe levels of silica. This dangerous particle has been linked to silicosis and deadly cancers if an employee is exposed to high doses. The construction workers at this particular site were being exposed to over three times the legal limit of the toxic substance. Although no one has shown any symptoms of an occupational disease, it is possible that the workers may find themselves ill after potentially inhaling this human carcinogen.

Dislodged during a construction, very small particles of the carcinogen may be inhaled into the lungs of Denver construction workers. Over time, such exposure can result in silicosis. Physicians in Colorado and across the county have yet to find a cure for silicosis, and the lung disease can be lethal. Construction workers are some of the most likely people to develop the condition.

OSHA inspectors can impose fines on construction companies and contractors who fail to take steps to prevent employees from coming into contact with high levels of silica. This is of little comfort, however, to construction workers and their families attempting to cope with the debilitating aftermath of exposure or suffering a premature death from silicosis.

Some employers take a great risk with their employees' health and safety by providing improperly fitting face masks. When face masks or other protective gear is provided, care must be taken to make sure that it fits properly. Colorado employers that fail to take the proper safety considerations can easily send their workers into a temporary or permanent disability. For those employees who develop some kind of occupational disease do have a safety net, however. Anyone who is unable to work because of a workplace-induced illness can apply for workers' compensation.

Source: Pocono Record, "High levels of lung disease-linked silica found at NYC subway construction site," March 19, 2012

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